The mage cut lengths of Siswa robe to gag and bind the unconsious guardsmen. He hunted around for the leader and hoped it wasn’t the one with the crossbow bolt in his chest. He searched each body for any mark or badge of authority occasionally asking Saeth to give her opinion. Saeth seemed indifferent as usual.
“Once we have hidden the guard somewhere I would like to see if I can overcome the Charm placed upon one of the guardsmen. If this is possible it would give us a great advantage against the Rahib. Ideally we should try this on the leader as they would be privvy to the most information. Equally he would need to remain tied up for our own protection if my experiment fails.”
The Priest nodded in agreement, “I like your thinking Miklos.” But so as not to let the young mage get too big headed he added, “A shame you didn’t think of this when we first encountered the Siswa outside the temple…” He grinned.
“To be honest.” Maruc continued, “We must rest soon. We will be taking a serious risk if we try to hold out in our injured state, we cannot afford to be slain or captured, but equally we cannot allow the Rahib to leave unchallenged or have time to regroup. What say you all? Do we press on and trust our luck will hold or rest and attack from a possition of strength but risk having to assault a marshalled force?”
“To move on now gives us some advantage of surprise, however slight. The Rahib is in his element, and will continue to dog us were we to linger anywhere.” Saeth didn’t look at the others; she studied the fallen Elves. “I’d as soon press onward as rest in the midst of my enemies. And Miklos? That one looks like as much of the leader as they had.”
* * * * *
As the others engaged the Siswa who had exited the courtyard of the Temple on Gray Mountain, Nicolai check the doors to the temple, and found them both unguarded and unlocked. So, he snuck in.
He entered a 10-foot long entryway and proceeded to carefully and quickly check the curtained off areas. Finding them largely empty, save for some coffers, he headed east.
Moving east through the hallway, Nicolai came to a diamond-shaped chamber. Overhead, the ceiling opened into a great dome filled with stalactites. A broad platform jutted from the southeast wall into the center of the room. On the platform was a statue of a robed elf, who sat with his legs crossed. Probably, that Elyas character the elves had spoke about. A small altar stood before the statue. A neat pile of folded Siswa robes lied before the altar.
Nicolai donned one of the Siswa robes and searched the altar for traps and secret doors. Finding none, he moved north, attempting to keep to the shadows as he moves. He was prepared to retreat back to the statue chamber and hide in the event of any trouble.
He then entered the 10-foot wide arched hallway to the north. Several 10-foot wide dark rooms branched off both sides of the hallway. They appeard empty, so he kept moving. Ahead, two hallways met. Some shadowy figures and flickering lights were moving around far to the north.
Readying Saeth’s sword, Nicolai snuck forward whilst hiding in the shadows, ready to run back if required. As he crept northward, the shadowy movement ahead suddenly disappeared. Behind him, where there was once the hallway through which he had snuck, there was now cold stone wall. The way back was gone. Ahead there was another hallway junction, branching to the west, north and east.
With little choice, Nicolai continued north, as quietly and carefully as he can. After travelling a short distance to the north, he came upon a large doorway to his right. He examined the large, strong wooden double doors for a keyhole or some hint of what lie beyond. The doors were covered with ornately carved with forest scenes. After completing his examination, with Saeth’s sword still in hand, he carefully and quietly pushed open one of the doors and looked within.
The door opened into a huge, natural cavern, eight sided and 70-feet across. It was brightly lit by oil lamps on the walls, which rose 30 feet, opening into a great 40-foot high metal dome. A large compass rose was carved into the froor in the cent of the room. There were three doorways, one in the center of the south wall, another in the west and the last to the east. A raised platform jutted 30-feet out from the north wall. At the back of the platform was a 15-foot-tall clay statue of Elyas. At the front of the platform was an altar. A black-robed figure stood behind the altar, burning incense.
Upon hearing the door open, the figure turned to face Nicolai. He was a Ylari man, matching the description of the Rahib.
“Have you returned with the maiden?” he asked anxiously.
“No Rahib,” Nicolai replied. “She appeared, but was protected by hidden guards.”
“What is the meaning of this? You are not Siswa! Who are you?”
“No. Dentiata sent me to see if you had what he was after.” Nicolai walks steadily forward as he speaks, attempting to move across the area to the Rahib before he can get his concentration together.
The Rahib eyed the young rogue suspiciously. “Dentiata sent you?” He pondered for a moment. “Things have…changed since we made our arrangement. Since I breached the tower ruins, dark spirits have been awakened, and I serve them now. If Thaddigren wishes to get the eye, he will have to deal with them.”
“It sounds for that as if you can offer more than Dentiata for my services. Perhaps we can come to some arrangement? However, I suggest we deal with these troublemakers first.”
The Rahib regarded the young man before him. He did not appear to be a formidable, but looks could be decieving, particularly if he was employed by the likes of Thaddigren Dentiata. And, he had managed to get into the temple and reach the inner temple unharmed. “I need the elfmaiden. If you can bring her to me, you will be well compensated.”
“Hmm”, replied Nicolai. “The maiden herself does not appear to be a problem. I will see what I can do.” Nicolai backed slowly towards the door he entered.
As he moved to the door, Nicolai heard the sound of a relatively large number of people moving through the hallway. Waiting to quietly open the door until after they passed, he saw a number of elven Siswa marching hurriedly down the hall. They did not see him. Behind him, he heard one of the double doors open into the cavernous temple. “Master, there are intruders in the temple!” he heard an elf speak in the common tongue to the Rahib.
“Kill them and report back to me here,” demanded the Rahib.
“The guards have already been sent. I shall join them now as you command,” replied the elf.
Nicolai silently followed the Siswa who were racing quickly down the hallway, running straight through a hallway junction and towards a dead end. Then, in the blink of an eye, they vanish. Behind him, Nicolai heard the sound of the double doors opening and the Siswa that had been speaking to the Rahib was now headed his way.
It was a tricky maneuver, but Nicolai managed to move around the corner and avoid detection. The lone Siswa quickly passed by and followed his comrades into the dead-end hallway, and disappeared. Before he could follow them, he felt the ground start to shake a bit beneath his feet. Sounds of commotion came from back in the direction from which he came.
* * * * *
Feldard, understanding the grave implications of Nicolai’s story, was even more determined to press on against the Rahib. “Resting at this point will be nigh impossible. These are but the first of many that will be after us. We need to find and finish off the Rahib… quickly.”
At the conclusion of Nicolai’s tale, with the guards securely tied up in the hallway, Miklos picked one of the guards at random and cast his charm spell upon him. He rousted the elf back to consciousness to see if his spell had worked.